Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Red Dead Review

I hate this game.

No really, I do. I don't even want to write about it, much less play it. I'm about half way through, and while I am determined to see this pig through to the end, it is going to take every ounce of will power to do so.

Where to start? Well, I guess I should bring it all back to GTA4 and how much I hated that game.
  • The story was so pretentious and annoying, filled to the brim with angst and Tarantino wannabe dialogue.
  • The driving was terrible, with each car handling like there was no such thing as power steering in Libery City, even at the lowest speeds.
  • The shooting was wonky as crap, with a wacky lock-on system that snapped right to the worst possible target in the room. Basically, if there was any baddy within ten feet of you it was game over, as you were never going to be able to target them as they pumped round after round into your stupid Russian face.
  • Even the on foot controls were wonky somehow! A lot of the animations in game seemed to be procedural, which meant that walking up and down stairs, over objects, and leaping over fences and the like all looked pretty darn good. Unfortunately, it wasn't perfect: Your guy controls a bit like a car himself. Niko Bellic was no acrobat, as sometimes it was a struggle just to get him to accurately get through a door. It reminded me a lot of Pagan: Ultima 8, where you had to really take your time and line up with a doorway or staircase in order to progress.
  • The multiplayer was full of potential and promise, but ended up being terribly pointless. You are plopped down in a city full of nothing to do, with 16 other people, and you just mess around. Sure, this is sort of the very definition of sandbox. Yet a sandbox is only as fun as the toys inside the sandbox, and GTA4 gave you none.
Okay, so that is why I hate GTA4. So why do I hate Red Dead Redemption? Copy that list and make a few slight changes.
  • The story this time around is pretty worthless, but not near as annoying. Sure, the game doesn't even bother to tell you who you are, why you are in the West, and what exactly you are doing until several hours in (and I'm still a little hazy on exactly what is going on), but at least I haven't had to hear "beeg American teeetiez". Yet.
  • Obviously, there are no cars in Red Dead Redemption. Well, technically I have seen a model-t looking thing during the intro, but I don't think you ever actually get to drive. Instead you have wild west horsey antics. Let me give you a rundown of the horsey controls: Tap A repeatedly to get your horse to go any faster than molasses. Left Bumper to slow down or stop. Hold-A if you want to maintain a speed, although it always feels slower than I want. X to jump over obstacles. Hold the Left Shoulder button to aim, and Right Shoulder to fire. Simple as that. If you want to do something as simple as ride and shoot at the same time - which, incidentally, in a cowboy game is something you should be doing just about all the time - you have to be holding the left shoulder, steering with the left analog stick, aiming with the right analog stick, pressing the right shoulder to fire, and all the while tapping the A button. Piece of cake, right?
  • The shooting is slightly better this time around. In the singleplayer I can't say that I've ever gotten killed by the aiming system like I did in GTA4. This is probably because the auto-aim default is off, and on my machine that is where it stays. Unfortunately, in the multiplayer the option to go auto-aim always remains, and boy do people ever use it. There is no penalty for using it, and no reward for actually lining up your shots like in every other game out there. So why wouldn't you use it? Oh right, because that might actually be fun! But this is competitive multiplayer, and in the land of competitive multiplayer it isn't about fun but about kill count. So be prepared to either die a lot while standing for your no-auto-aim principles, or just not ever play the multiplayer like me.
  • The on foot controls are still wonky. Getting through doorways and up narrow staircases is still a frustrating exercise. On the bright side, walking into NPCs until they procedurally topple over like drunkards is as hilarious as ever.
  • The multiplayer, as I have already mentioned, is crap. More great potential, more great disappointment. The free roam could have been something special: Posses of players marauding the lands and doing evil bandit stuff like robbing trains and banks, and another group of bounty hunting players coming to put an end to it! This is pretty much what every article and Youtube clip promised, and I was stoked. Unfortunately, in action the free roam is the exact same as GTA4's free roam: A big sandbox with little to do. There are no banks to rob, or trains to capture. Which means there are no posses of bandit players. Which means there are no posses of bounty hunting players to bring them to justice. Which means everybody just runs around an incredibly sparsely populated game world and just mucks about, occasionally shooting each other. The action very much reminds me of early Ultima Online in that it is everybody versus everybody. And in everybody versus everybody, the noob is the big loser. Like early Ultima Online you have no disincentive to smoke the brand new player. In fact, you are incentivized to do it, as Red Dead Redemption has a leveling system that rewards you with bigger, better guns and equipment. That noobie literally doesn't have a chance with his shitty level 1 revolver as you pick him off a mile away with your high powered rifle (using auto-aim, naturally). However, this time around there are a few toys in the sandbox. There are (a couple) bandit camps filled with baddy NPCs that you can raid for extra XP, as well as hunting and foraging challenges. And yes, hunting and foraging is just as boring as it sounds. Still, it is nice that they are there if you are into that sort of thing.
So yeah, I hate this game. And I'm a little pissed that I paid for it. I don't even want to talk about this anymore. I'm done. When I think that reviewers love this turd I just want to... No, I'm done.

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